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  1. Following a season in which the Twins finally turned the corner and set their long-awaited contention blueprint into motion, the lack of aggressiveness on the market this winter has left many fans scratching their heads. An article by Jack Moore for Baseball Prospectus this week discussing Minnesota's misapplied label as a "small market" rankled plenty of folks, as evidenced by the nine pages of discussion on the topic in our forums. Personally, while I have been critical of the front office's timid approach at times in the past, I'm not too riled up by the sparsity of moves, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there was Park's posting fee. At $12.85 million, it was very large, in the contexts of both this organization's past and the Korean market standards. While you might not technically construe this as a payroll expense, for all intents and purposes it is. They spent many millions of dollars to add immediate talent to the major-league roster. So if you prorate that money over the four years of Park's contract, the 2016 payroll figure jumps to about the exact same level it was at a year ago. That number ranked the Twins 18th in baseball last season, and while it might rank a bit lower this time around, it'll still be fairly close to the middle of the pack. It's not unreasonable for a club that falls on the lower end of the mid-market category in terms of revenue. The other thing is that the Twins seem to be committing to a more youth-focused approach. While it's difficult to have absolute confidence in the present bullpen array, I'd much rather allow the younger internal options to take jobs and run with them, as opposed to seeing them blocked by mediocrities like Tim Stauffer. Last year, he came in and had just about the worst spring you could possibly imagine, but still made the club and received a relatively long leash, on the basis of his guaranteed contract and veteran status. No more of that. But while we're on the subject, let's talk about Stauffer for a moment. Last offseason, he was Minnesota's most expensive bullpen addition, with his $2.2 million commitment ranking as the 23rd-largest given to a free agent relief pitcher by an MLB club (per MLB Trade Rumors). There is a "you get what you pay for" dynamic in play here. Nearly every reliever who signed a bigger deal than Stauffer last offseason performed better than he did. Given that the Twins missed the playoffs by only a few games, and given that Stauffer performed miserably almost literally every time he took the mound, you could certainly argue that aiming a little higher with their veteran bullpen upgrade might have made a big difference. But instead of aiming higher here in an offseason where the bullpen is an obvious area of need, the Twins haven't so much as set their sights, at least not with any urgent intention of pulling the trigger. We're getting the same explanatory arguments as usual: Terry Ryan and the Twins simply don't like any of the free agents that much. Tony Sipp? Too many years. Antonio Bastardo? Overpaid. This is about evaluation, not spending. It's a line that's being echoed by media members. But of course this overlooks the fact that, so many times in the past, those players that the Twins "haven't liked" ended up having successful seasons in which they could have been difference-makers for the club. Meanwhile, many of the players that they liked enough to sign, who invariably ended up being on the second or third tier in terms of monetary commitments, panned out as poor investments. These payroll arguments that come up every year (usually around this time) are tedious and frustrating in part because they become so repetitive but even more so because people on opposite sides tend to cling to outrageous extremes. The fact that the team isn't spending aggressively and adding big contracts does not necessarily indicate a lack of desire to win, nor is it a surefire sign that ownership is interested only in hoarding cash. At the same time, nobody is arguing that the Twins should "spend money just to spend money," and to dismiss the reality that it costs more to acquire more established and coveted players is ridiculous. So if we're going to have these discussions, let's at least try to be reasonable and realistic. I'm on board with what the Twins seem to be doing, but I'm also running out of patience with watching the same conservative strategies come up short. If the front office's decision to eschew the open market and look inward while their competitors pile up relief talent backfires, there needs to be some accountability.
  2. As we close in on the month of February, the Twins have remained quiet on the Hot Stove front. In terms of spending, it has been one of the most conservative offseasons we have seen from this franchise in some time. Byung Ho Park is the only addition that has really cost them anything. Outside of a few escalating contracts and arbitration raises, they haven't added payroll anywhere. With Torii Hunter and a couple others coming off the books, that leaves them slightly short of last year's Opening Day mark of $108 million, barring further moves.Following a season in which the Twins finally turned the corner and set their long-awaited contention blueprint into motion, the lack of aggressiveness on the market this winter has left many fans scratching their heads. An article by Jack Moore for Baseball Prospectus this week discussing Minnesota's misapplied label as a "small market" rankled plenty of folks, as evidenced by the nine pages of discussion on the topic in our forums. Personally, while I have been critical of the front office's timid approach at times in the past, I'm not too riled up by the sparsity of moves, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there was Park's posting fee. At $12.85 million, it was very large, in the contexts of both this organization's past and the Korean market standards. While you might not technically construe this as a payroll expense, for all intents and purposes it is. They spent many millions of dollars to add immediate talent to the major-league roster. So if you prorate that money over the four years of Park's contract, the 2016 payroll figure jumps to about the exact same level it was at a year ago. That number ranked the Twins 18th in baseball last season, and while it might rank a bit lower this time around, it'll still be fairly close to the middle of the pack. It's not unreasonable for a club that falls on the lower end of the mid-market category in terms of revenue. The other thing is that the Twins seem to be committing to a more youth-focused approach. While it's difficult to have absolute confidence in the present bullpen array, I'd much rather allow the younger internal options to take jobs and run with them, as opposed to seeing them blocked by mediocrities like Tim Stauffer. Last year, he came in and had just about the worst spring you could possibly imagine, but still made the club and received a relatively long leash, on the basis of his guaranteed contract and veteran status. No more of that. But while we're on the subject, let's talk about Stauffer for a moment. Last offseason, he was Minnesota's most expensive bullpen addition, with his $2.2 million commitment ranking as the 23rd-largest given to a free agent relief pitcher by an MLB club (per MLB Trade Rumors). There is a "you get what you pay for" dynamic in play here. Nearly every reliever who signed a bigger deal than Stauffer last offseason performed better than he did. Given that the Twins missed the playoffs by only a few games, and given that Stauffer performed miserably almost literally every time he took the mound, you could certainly argue that aiming a little higher with their veteran bullpen upgrade might have made a big difference. But instead of aiming higher here in an offseason where the bullpen is an obvious area of need, the Twins haven't so much as set their sights, at least not with any urgent intention of pulling the trigger. We're getting the same explanatory arguments as usual: Terry Ryan and the Twins simply don't like any of the free agents that much. Tony Sipp? Too many years. Antonio Bastardo? Overpaid. This is about evaluation, not spending. It's a line that's being echoed by media members. But of course this overlooks the fact that, so many times in the past, those players that the Twins "haven't liked" ended up having successful seasons in which they could have been difference-makers for the club. Meanwhile, many of the players that they liked enough to sign, who invariably ended up being on the second or third tier in terms of monetary commitments, panned out as poor investments. These payroll arguments that come up every year (usually around this time) are tedious and frustrating in part because they become so repetitive but even more so because people on opposite sides tend to cling to outrageous extremes. The fact that the team isn't spending aggressively and adding big contracts does not necessarily indicate a lack of desire to win, nor is it a surefire sign that ownership is interested only in hoarding cash. At the same time, nobody is arguing that the Twins should "spend money just to spend money," and to dismiss the reality that it costs more to acquire more established and coveted players is ridiculous. So if we're going to have these discussions, let's at least try to be reasonable and realistic. I'm on board with what the Twins seem to be doing, but I'm also running out of patience with watching the same conservative strategies come up short. If the front office's decision to eschew the open market and look inward while their competitors pile up relief talent backfires, there needs to be some accountability. Click here to view the article
  3. Aaron and John talk about BYRON BUXTON (and some other stuff). You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click the Play button below. Click here to view the article
  4. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/GATG_06142015_final.mp3
  5. The Twins announced they had designated Stauffer for assignment after Wednesday night's loss to the Royals. The move was inevitable due to his struggles in the bullpen throughout the year. Stauffer was rocked in his first spring training outing and never really regained any credibility or velocity. His $2.2M signing (plus quite a bit more in incentives) was logical enough if one looked at his numbers as a reliever: 57K in 56.1 IP with 19 BB. Critics might point out that his numbers were also considerably better in spacious Petco Park, and that's true. But Target Field can hide some flaws, too, and a comparison to Glen Perkins did not seem outlandish at the time of his signing. Until, of course, his velocity and strikeout numbers fell off a cliff. For the Twins this year, that 1:1 ratio for strikeouts and innings pitched fell to 6:15 - with more walks than strikeouts. That suggests something was wrong. He acquiesced to a month on the disabled list, but came back to the majors after having almost no success in AAA-Rochester, despite having additional time he could spend in AAA. His return went about as well as one would think of a pitcher who has shown zero credibility as a reliever. He got a single out in his first outing. Was shelled in his second. His next three he gave up hits in short outings, but nothing disastrous. And then, after not pitching for three days AND having an off-day the next day, he was replaced with (a far more deserving) Michael Tonkin. So what happened? Your guess is as good as mine. It's not like the Twins bullpen is in IMMEDIATE need of help; the whole bullpen other than mop-up guy JR Graham had Wednesday night off and Thursday is an off-day. On Friday, most of the bullpen should be fresh. And Stauffer should be at the top of that fresh list. The Twins have used Stauffer in extremely low leverage situations all year, put him on the disabled list for a very dubious injury, recalled him long before they needed to and then put him back into low-leverage situations the rest of the year. Instead, the Twins are moving to Tonkin. They have been yo-yo-ing reliever Michael Tonkin between AAA and the majors all season, despite his superior performances. So if you're looking for good news, you have it. If you're looking for a good explanation, I'm afraid I'm coming up short. The wondering is going to need to continue.
  6. From the moment Tim Stauffer took the mound in spring training, Twins fans (and probably the Twins) have been concerned and wondering what is wrong with him. The concern stopped last night. The wondering - not so much.The Twins announced they had designated Stauffer for assignment after Wednesday night's loss to the Royals. The move was inevitable due to his struggles in the bullpen throughout the year. Stauffer was rocked in his first spring training outing and never really regained any credibility or velocity. His $2.2M signing (plus quite a bit more in incentives) was logical enough if one looked at his numbers as a reliever: 57K in 56.1 IP with 19 BB. Critics might point out that his numbers were also considerably better in spacious Petco Park, and that's true. But Target Field can hide some flaws, too, and a comparison to Glen Perkins did not seem outlandish at the time of his signing. Until, of course, his velocity and strikeout numbers fell off a cliff. For the Twins this year, that 1:1 ratio for strikeouts and innings pitched fell to 6:15 - with more walks than strikeouts. That suggests something was wrong. He acquiesced to a month on the disabled list, but came back to the majors after having almost no success in AAA-Rochester, despite having additional time he could spend in AAA. His return went about as well as one would think of a pitcher who has shown zero credibility as a reliever. He got a single out in his first outing. Was shelled in his second. His next three he gave up hits in short outings, but nothing disastrous. And then, after not pitching for three days AND having an off-day the next day, he was replaced with (a far more deserving) Michael Tonkin. So what happened? Your guess is as good as mine. It's not like the Twins bullpen is in IMMEDIATE need of help; the whole bullpen other than mop-up guy JR Graham had Wednesday night off and Thursday is an off-day. On Friday, most of the bullpen should be fresh. And Stauffer should be at the top of that fresh list. The Twins have used Stauffer in extremely low leverage situations all year, put him on the disabled list for a very dubious injury, recalled him long before they needed to and then put him back into low-leverage situations the rest of the year. Instead, the Twins are moving to Tonkin. They have been yo-yo-ing reliever Michael Tonkin between AAA and the majors all season, despite his superior performances. So if you're looking for good news, you have it. If you're looking for a good explanation, I'm afraid I'm coming up short. The wondering is going to need to continue. Click here to view the article
  7. One could paint the idea of drastic roster overhauls after one week of games as an overreaction, but in this case the horrors that have played out on the field only help to confirm the dubiousness of several choices made at the end of spring. In a sense, it's unfair to cast judgment on Blaine Boyer or Tim Stauffer or the current center field duo for struggling in such a small sample, especially with the team at large failing on almost every level. But these are easily addressed problems, where the solution is almost certain to pay better short-term and long-term dividends. What benefit is there to continually trotting out a veteran like Boyer or Shane Robinson? The minor-leaguers have done their parts in an even smaller slate of games. Aaron Hicks has an OPS above 1.000 through four games at Triple-A and Josmil Pinto is over .800 as usual. The Rochester bullpen, which includes several seemingly MLB-ready arms, has not allowed a run. Sample size be damned, it seems flat-out strange that these players are putting up numbers in Triple-A after being eschewed for ill-equipped vets that look overmatched in the majors. If things continue the way they're going, the Twins will face some tougher decisions. How long can Oswaldo Arcia continue to stumble around in left field while looking utterly awful at the plate? How lengthy is Kyle Gibson's leash if he keeps delivering starts that remotely resemble his first one? Can J.R. Graham be trusted to overcome his control woes and get outs? But those potentially long-term building blocks deserve more patience than veteran journeyman bench players and relievers who probably shouldn't have been on the roster to begin with, and carry little if any value beyond this season. Clear them out, and replace them with viable young players to energize this grossly underperforming squad. I'm not necessarily convinced that a roster with Hicks, Pinto, Michael Tonkin, Ryan Pressly and others is going to be substantially better, but it could hardly be worse and at the very least it gives fans something worth tuning into. At this point, that's got to be a major concern for this club.
  8. The Twins desperately needed a good start this year to generate some enthusiasm following a stretch of four consecutive horrible seasons and a deflating development involving their top free agent acquisition just before Opening Day. Unfortunately, the first week has played out in the opposite fashion. One could hardly imagine a worse start to this 2015 campaign, as the first week of games has seen the Twins win just one of seven. For the most part, this club hasn't even been competitive. Some of the struggles are tied up in slumps that seem unlikely to extend much further. But this is a roster that was constructed sub-optimally from the start, as Twins decision-makers opted for veteran mediocrity over youthful upside in almost every possible instance. With that plan blowing up in the worst way, how long will Terry Ryan, Paul Molitor and Co. stick to their guns? How patient can they be before implementing major shakeups to prevent things from getting out of hand?One could paint the idea of drastic roster overhauls after one week of games as an overreaction, but in this case the horrors that have played out on the field only help to confirm the dubiousness of several choices made at the end of spring. In a sense, it's unfair to cast judgment on Blaine Boyer or Tim Stauffer or the current center field duo for struggling in such a small sample, especially with the team at large failing on almost every level. But these are easily addressed problems, where the solution is almost certain to pay better short-term and long-term dividends. What benefit is there to continually trotting out a veteran like Boyer or Shane Robinson? The minor-leaguers have done their parts in an even smaller slate of games. Aaron Hicks has an OPS above 1.000 through four games at Triple-A and Josmil Pinto is over .800 as usual. The Rochester bullpen, which includes several seemingly MLB-ready arms, has not allowed a run. Sample size be damned, it seems flat-out strange that these players are putting up numbers in Triple-A after being eschewed for ill-equipped vets that look overmatched in the majors. If things continue the way they're going, the Twins will face some tougher decisions. How long can Oswaldo Arcia continue to stumble around in left field while looking utterly awful at the plate? How lengthy is Kyle Gibson's leash if he keeps delivering starts that remotely resemble his first one? Can J.R. Graham be trusted to overcome his control woes and get outs? But those potentially long-term building blocks deserve more patience than veteran journeyman bench players and relievers who probably shouldn't have been on the roster to begin with, and carry little if any value beyond this season. Clear them out, and replace them with viable young players to energize this grossly underperforming squad. I'm not necessarily convinced that a roster with Hicks, Pinto, Michael Tonkin, Ryan Pressly and others is going to be substantially better, but it could hardly be worse and at the very least it gives fans something worth tuning into. At this point, that's got to be a major concern for this club. Click here to view the article
  9. With Blaine Boyer and Mike Pelfrey both being slotted for roles as middle relievers, only one spot in the bullpen remains. Both J.R. Graham and Caleb Thielbar are in contention for that job, but with Graham enjoying a much more successful spring -- not to mention his status as a Rule 5 acquisition -- things appear to be leaning in the righty’s favor. That puts Paul Molitor in an interesting position as he enters his first season as a manager. Ron Gardenhire almost always had multiple lefties in his bullpens, providing him with added flexibility to play match-ups in the late innings, but Molitor may not have that luxury in his first go. Maybe that's not all that surprising; his reliever usage this spring has suggested that he’s more interested in having his pitchers record multiple outs -- even over multiple innings -- as opposed to utilizing specific arms to face one or two hitters. Still, there will be instances late in a close game where a threatening left-handed hitter like Michael Brantley or Eric Hosmer steps into the box and Molitor’s top weapon, Brian Duensing, is unavailable. If Thielbar’s not around, who’s the go-to guy in such a situation? Is there one? Let’s take a look at the options Molitor will have on hand outside of Glen Perkins, who is obviously not a match-up play. Blaine Boyer: The veteran really isn’t a strong option to match up against left-handed hitters, and in fact should probably be limited almost entirely to righties. As Parker noted Tuesday, Boyer has struggled against batters from the opposite side, though the addition of a changeup to his repertoire could help matters. Mike Pelfrey: Over the course of his career, Pelfrey has been just about equally effective against hitters from either side -- which is to say, not terribly effective (.753 OPS vs. RHB, .784 OPS vs. LHB). As a starter, he didn't really have the secondary stuff to keep lefties in line, but we’ll see how things change with the role switch. Casey Fien: He will probably be tabbed for a pretty strict eighth-inning role, at least initially, though at least he can probably handle hitters from both sides in that duty? Last year, he held lefties to a .255/.294/.400 line, though in his first season with the Twins portsiders slugged .472 with six homers against him. Tim Stauffer: In his career, Stauffer has actually been more effective against lefty batters, holding them to a .712 OPS as opposed to .737 for righties. Last year in San Diego, Stauffer held LHB to a .282/.333/.347 line with zero homers in 135 plate appearances. Interesting. From a strictly statistical standpoint, Stauffer actually appears to be the best match-up choice for left-handed hitters among righties in the bullpen. That may be a key point in his favor, in light of his immense struggles on the hill this spring. Would you be comfortable sending any of the above names (or the completely untested J.R. Graham) against a lefty power threat in a tie game? Or do you think the Twins would be wise to have a second lefty behind Duensing? Sound off in the comments.
  10. The American League Central isn’t filled with as many imposing left-handed hitters as it once was. With Prince Fielder traded to Texas, Adam Dunn retired and Travis Hafner’s dominance a distant memory, Minnesota no longer needs to worry much about game-changing homers from lefty swingers. Because of this, perhaps it makes sense for the Twins to carry only one southpaw specialist among its seven relievers, as they appear poised to do.With Blaine Boyer and Mike Pelfrey both being slotted for roles as middle relievers, only one spot in the bullpen remains. Both J.R. Graham and Caleb Thielbar are in contention for that job, but with Graham enjoying a much more successful spring -- not to mention his status as a Rule 5 acquisition -- things appear to be leaning in the righty’s favor. That puts Paul Molitor in an interesting position as he enters his first season as a manager. Ron Gardenhire almost always had multiple lefties in his bullpens, providing him with added flexibility to play match-ups in the late innings, but Molitor may not have that luxury in his first go. Maybe that's not all that surprising; his reliever usage this spring has suggested that he’s more interested in having his pitchers record multiple outs -- even over multiple innings -- as opposed to utilizing specific arms to face one or two hitters. Still, there will be instances late in a close game where a threatening left-handed hitter like Michael Brantley or Eric Hosmer steps into the box and Molitor’s top weapon, Brian Duensing, is unavailable. If Thielbar’s not around, who’s the go-to guy in such a situation? Is there one? Let’s take a look at the options Molitor will have on hand outside of Glen Perkins, who is obviously not a match-up play. Blaine Boyer: The veteran really isn’t a strong option to match up against left-handed hitters, and in fact should probably be limited almost entirely to righties. As Parker noted Tuesday, Boyer has struggled against batters from the opposite side, though the addition of a changeup to his repertoire could help matters. Mike Pelfrey: Over the course of his career, Pelfrey has been just about equally effective against hitters from either side -- which is to say, not terribly effective (.753 OPS vs. RHB, .784 OPS vs. LHB). As a starter, he didn't really have the secondary stuff to keep lefties in line, but we’ll see how things change with the role switch. Casey Fien: He will probably be tabbed for a pretty strict eighth-inning role, at least initially, though at least he can probably handle hitters from both sides in that duty? Last year, he held lefties to a .255/.294/.400 line, though in his first season with the Twins portsiders slugged .472 with six homers against him. Tim Stauffer: In his career, Stauffer has actually been more effective against lefty batters, holding them to a .712 OPS as opposed to .737 for righties. Last year in San Diego, Stauffer held LHB to a .282/.333/.347 line with zero homers in 135 plate appearances. Interesting. From a strictly statistical standpoint, Stauffer actually appears to be the best match-up choice for left-handed hitters among righties in the bullpen. That may be a key point in his favor, in light of his immense struggles on the hill this spring. Would you be comfortable sending any of the above names (or the completely untested J.R. Graham) against a lefty power threat in a tie game? Or do you think the Twins would be wise to have a second lefty behind Duensing? Sound off in the comments. Click here to view the article
  11. He has four pitches, but his best fastball tops out in the highish 80s. He got a few strikeouts on changeups. He is best getting ahead in the count and you worry about him when he falls behind or is going through the lineup multiple times. He needs to manage a baseball game the way less-talented quarterbacks manage a football game. He needs to not make mistakes. He needs to mix things up. He needs a little luck. And unless something drastic changes, that is who he is going to be. What we learned this spring is that nothing has changed drastically, but he might be good enough to hold a spot in a rotation. And that, incidentally, is still a pretty nice player to have in the organization when the only thing the team gave up is a backup outfielder, and only needs to pay him first year arbitration money. Seeing a performance like this, it is easy to mock the idea that ANY of the stuff seen at spring training should be used in the roster decision-making process. After all, spring training is, by definition, a small sample size. It is a fraction of the available information we have on these guys. Beyond obvious questions like "Is this guy healthy" or "Has something changed drastically" it shouldn't be used to answer many questions. And for the most part, that is the way it works. More than 20 of the available roster spots on the 25-man roster were going to certain guys provided they weren't injured. The remaining spots are either pretty low leverage (like the last spots in the bullpen) or choosing among less than ideal options. OR finding out whether someone is "ready." For instance, the center field competition would have been over had Aaron Hicks (again) demonstrated he is ready for the majors. As late as this weekend Manager Paul Molitor didn't know who the starting center fielder is, which demonstrates that hasn't happened. Entering camp, I wondered if the same wasn't true of Trevor May and the fifth starter spot. But then May got sick and Milone was the one pitching in the major league fields and people started talking about Pelfrey and.... On Tuesday, I thought the three starts by Milone, May and Mike Pelfrey would all be important. Today, I'm wondering if the only one that really matters is that of May. The others are known commodities and their last couple of starts have confirmed that they are known commodities. I also wonder, given that we won't know when Pelfrey will next pitch until tomorrow, that he might already be out of the competition. If all that is true, then tomorrow's start is going to be much more fun to watch, as it truly counts for something. And it is wholly appropriate that it does. Twins Takes Twins lost 5-4 in 10 innings on the road versus the Red Sox. Spring training games often end tied after nine innings but Molitor wanted to see relief prospect Jake Reed pitch. Reed retired the first batter he faced, but threw a first pitch slider to Rusney Castillo which ended up barely clearing the Faux Green Monster at jetBlue field. Milone was relieved by Tim Stauffer, who has drawn a lot of commentary in our forums after my bullpen story. Given that Twins fans are not real familiar with him, it's easy to view him as a soft-throwing failed fifth starter candidate, but that's not the case. He pitched out of the bullpen for the Padres last year and racked up 57K in 56.1 IP as a reliever, and posted a 2.56 ERA. Those are awfully good setup man numbers. His poor camp is mostly a result of his failed fifth starter attempts, but today didn't do a ton to help his numbers. He got two K in 1.2 IP, but gave up four hits, though he was also the victim of a little bad luck. The worst part was that he walked in a run. He's not in any danger of not making the roster and Molitor noted in the postgame talk that Stauffer was throwing harder. But Stauffer might have a slow start this season or be used in lower leverage roles until the Twins see the guy he is supposed to be. Stauffer was pulled after walking in the run and replaced by Mark Hamburger. Hamburger was outstanding again, striking out two and giving up one hit in 2.1 IP. I had him as the odd man out in my bullpen calculus story yesterday, but its worth noting that he has put up far better strikeout numbers than Blaine Boyer or even the hard-throwing J.R. Graham. Hamburger now has 10 K in 9.2IP, versus 5K in 9.2 IP for Boyer and 6 K in 9.0 IP for Graham. I still think the odds are against him, but Hamburger would come north if it was up to me. I want to see more of this kid. I expect we will, one way or the other, later this year. Finally, regarding center field, Shane Robinson started in center field and got a hit in his first at-bat but also struck out twice. Later in the game Eddie Rosario replaced him but didn't have any challenges defensively. He went 0-2 with a strikeout. And finally, Jordan Schafer played left field for the whole game, going 0-4. The Red Sox starter was Wade Miley, a southpaw, against which Schafer has usually struggled.
  12. I've been calling the 5th starter outings "tryouts," which sort of implies they count for something. It's not totally clear they do. Tommy Milone had his - probably last - tryout Thursday afternoon. I'll give you the numbers, because some of you might be interested - 5 IP, 3 ER, 6H, 3K, 2 BB. But a more complete summarization was that he pitched like the fairly good version of Tommy Milone. That is not the guy that Twins fans saw last summer, but he's also not going to be anything much better than a back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.He has four pitches, but his best fastball tops out in the highish 80s. He got a few strikeouts on changeups. He is best getting ahead in the count and you worry about him when he falls behind or is going through the lineup multiple times. He needs to manage a baseball game the way less-talented quarterbacks manage a football game. He needs to not make mistakes. He needs to mix things up. He needs a little luck. And unless something drastic changes, that is who he is going to be. What we learned this spring is that nothing has changed drastically, but he might be good enough to hold a spot in a rotation. And that, incidentally, is still a pretty nice player to have in the organization when the only thing the team gave up is a backup outfielder, and only needs to pay him first year arbitration money. Seeing a performance like this, it is easy to mock the idea that ANY of the stuff seen at spring training should be used in the roster decision-making process. After all, spring training is, by definition, a small sample size. It is a fraction of the available information we have on these guys. Beyond obvious questions like "Is this guy healthy" or "Has something changed drastically" it shouldn't be used to answer many questions. And for the most part, that is the way it works. More than 20 of the available roster spots on the 25-man roster were going to certain guys provided they weren't injured. The remaining spots are either pretty low leverage (like the last spots in the bullpen) or choosing among less than ideal options. OR finding out whether someone is "ready." For instance, the center field competition would have been over had Aaron Hicks (again) demonstrated he is ready for the majors. As late as this weekend Manager Paul Molitor didn't know who the starting center fielder is, which demonstrates that hasn't happened. Entering camp, I wondered if the same wasn't true of Trevor May and the fifth starter spot. But then May got sick and Milone was the one pitching in the major league fields and people started talking about Pelfrey and.... On Tuesday, I thought the three starts by Milone, May and Mike Pelfrey would all be important. Today, I'm wondering if the only one that really matters is that of May. The others are known commodities and their last couple of starts have confirmed that they are known commodities. I also wonder, given that we won't know when Pelfrey will next pitch until tomorrow, that he might already be out of the competition. If all that is true, then tomorrow's start is going to be much more fun to watch, as it truly counts for something. And it is wholly appropriate that it does. Twins Takes Twins lost 5-4 in 10 innings on the road versus the Red Sox. Spring training games often end tied after nine innings but Molitor wanted to see relief prospect Jake Reed pitch. Reed retired the first batter he faced, but threw a first pitch slider to Rusney Castillo which ended up barely clearing the Faux Green Monster at jetBlue field.Milone was relieved by Tim Stauffer, who has drawn a lot of commentary in our forums after my bullpen story. Given that Twins fans are not real familiar with him, it's easy to view him as a soft-throwing failed fifth starter candidate, but that's not the case. He pitched out of the bullpen for the Padres last year and racked up 57K in 56.1 IP as a reliever, and posted a 2.56 ERA. Those are awfully good setup man numbers.His poor camp is mostly a result of his failed fifth starter attempts, but today didn't do a ton to help his numbers. He got two K in 1.2 IP, but gave up four hits, though he was also the victim of a little bad luck. The worst part was that he walked in a run. He's not in any danger of not making the roster and Molitor noted in the postgame talk that Stauffer was throwing harder. But Stauffer might have a slow start this season or be used in lower leverage roles until the Twins see the guy he is supposed to be. Stauffer was pulled after walking in the run and replaced by Mark Hamburger. Hamburger was outstanding again, striking out two and giving up one hit in 2.1 IP. I had him as the odd man out in my bullpen calculus story yesterday, but its worth noting that he has put up far better strikeout numbers than Blaine Boyer or even the hard-throwing J.R. Graham. Hamburger now has 10 K in 9.2IP, versus 5K in 9.2 IP for Boyer and 6 K in 9.0 IP for Graham. I still think the odds are against him, but Hamburger would come north if it was up to me. I want to see more of this kid. I expect we will, one way or the other, later this year.Finally, regarding center field, Shane Robinson started in center field and got a hit in his first at-bat but also struck out twice. Later in the game Eddie Rosario replaced him but didn't have any challenges defensively. He went 0-2 with a strikeout. And finally, Jordan Schafer played left field for the whole game, going 0-4. The Red Sox starter was Wade Miley, a southpaw, against which Schafer has usually struggled. Click here to view the article
  13. First: In order to make significant, measurable and effective change, you cannot focus on changing 20 things. Too many balls in the air, some will drop. Focusing of a few things that you can change and make an effort to do so, is much more effective. Second: I do believe that with the changes this off-season, the Twins removed a huge barrier to their success: Breaking ties with Gardernhire, Anderson, Ulger and Steinbrenner (even though they did not go far enough in my opinion, but this is another matter) is the equivalent of starting the seasons with, at least, plus five wins. So that next number in that loss progression looks more between 83 and 87. So those three things that need to be done, if done correctly and effectively, will be enough to give the Twins an extra five to seven wins, putting that total loss range to 76-82 and that is not a losing record. The top number of that range (86-76) is close to a wild-card number and, if the Twins get there, they likely will compete for the title in a weakened and more balanced Division. The first thing they need to do to get there is to fix their bullpen. And I hope that they know that this was a huge problem in 2014; as a matter of fact a bigger problem than the rotation. I touched it a bit here, suggesting that they spend some more money and get another late inning reliever. Even though this bird has flown already, there are similar possibilities, especially in a trade, outside the organization. But there are potentially intriguing possibilities inside the organization. Let's frame the problem first, and then let's look at what they have at hand, and explore potential solutions. The Problem: In 2014, the Twins' bullpen was bad; how bad? It ranked 29th in the majors in both xFIP (4.18) and SIERA (3.84). And those are numbers that are, a. fielding independent, so Gardy's Catchers at the Outfield are not factored in, and b. reflect the actual talent of pitchers and not external parameters, thus really measuring how good the staff is in a vaccum (as much as one can have.) So why was the Twins' pen was one better than the worst in the majors? Let's do some root cause analysis: Here are some other numbers for the pen, and their rank in the majors: K/9: 6.66 (30th), K%: 17.3 (30th), SwStr%: 9.2% (30th), GB%: 40.1 (27th), FBv: 91.5 (27th), Contact% 80.9 (1st). So, in other words, the Twins pen: Had the worst strikeout rate in the majors, the worst swing strike percentage in the majors, the third from the bottom ground ball rate in the majors, the third from the bottom fastball velocity in the majors and the most contact rate in the majors. However, it could had been worse: The Twins' pen ranked 15th in BABIP (so they were not particularly unlucky) and 23rd in HR/FB. So in simple terms, the 2014 Twins' pen: Could not induce swings and misses or strikeouts Put the ball in play more than any other pen And the put the ball in play with the third worst velocity in the majors When the ball was in play was the least on the ground than all but 3 other teams Thankfully, they were lucky enough that their fly balls translated to home runs at a rate less than league average and batted balls (other than home runs) were hits at a league average rate. What they have at hand: To see what they have at hand, let's create an imaginary construct called the league average reliever. So here are the numbers (and I am focusing on the Twins' weaknesses here) of the league average reliever: xFIP: 3.67, SIERA: 3.34 (those 2 are pretty much equivalent, they correlate with 92% coefficient, so I will be focusing on SIERA only for simplicities' sake), K%: 22.2, Fastball velocity (FBv): 92.5, Swinging Strike% (SwStr%) : 10.5. Here are how the current Twins' bullpen candidates (and "locks") performed in those categories in 2014. If they are equal or better than the average major league pitcher, that number is in bold. For players mostly in the minors, I am including their K% in the minors (in parenthesis). The other numbers are not available. Pitcher SIERA K% SwStr% Fbv LHP Glen Perkins 2.62 25.4 11.2 93.4 Brian Duensing 4.29 14.4 8.6 91.1 Logan Darnell 3.55 19.6 (18.1) 9.9 89.8 Aaron Thompson 3.8 19.4 (22.5) 10.8 89.1 Caleb Thielbar 4.06 17 6.2 89.1 Tommy Milone 4.57 14.5 7.3 86.6 Ryan O'Rourke NA (28.7) RHP Lester Oliveros 4.62 18.5 (35.4) 9.8 93.7 Ryan Pressly 4.18 11.5 (24.6) 8.3 93.3 Blaine Boyer 3.45 18.1 (23.5) 9.8 93 Michael Tonkin 3.56 18.4 (24.2) 8.4 92.8 Casey Fien 3.43 19.6 10.4 92.3 Trevor May 4.2 20.7 (23.5) 9.4 91.9 (*) Stephen Pryor 6.94 12.5 (27.2) 5.7 91.7 (*) Tim Stauffer 3.09 24.5 10.9 91.1 A.J. Achter 5.11 10.2 (24.6) 8.3 90.2 J.R. Graham NA (15.7) Mark Hamburger NA (16) So, in other words, the Twins now have only 2 pitchers who were above the proverbial average pitcher in 2014: Glen Perkins and Tim Stauffer. In a seven men bullpen, this is not very encouraging. For the time being, let's pen in Perkins and Stauffer and look for 5 more names, at least one of whom has to be a lefty. I assume that starting pitching prospects like Alex Meyer, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey & Jason Wheeler, will be in AAA if they do not make the rotation, so these 5 are out of this discussion. One wild-card is Mike Pelfrey. I believe that he has the stuff to make an excellent late-inning reliever, and make the jump that Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan did before him. However, Pelfrey has been a better starter than either Perkins or Nathan, so his ceiling as a late innings reliever is higher than both. Pelfrey has pitched in two games in relief (for the Mets in 2007) thus if that transition happens, it should happen as soon as possible, to be able to pitch on consecutive days when the season starts. Why do I think he can be a good late innings reliever? His fastball is explosive when healthy and is his primary weapon. As a starter, he has to mix his pitches. As a reliever, his 92.5 mph fastball, can easily gain 3-4 more miles an hour. His curve ball is a good complementary offering and he would have the luxury to drop his non-successful slider and cutter and just occasionally mix his less than stellar split finger change. This makes 3. As far as righties go, the Twins will likely take Casey Fien north (and hopefully not use him in high leverage situations, because he is below average in all of the above categories, and he is one of the major drivers of the low GB%, since his is only 32.1.) Fien would not be my choice. I would rather see what Trevor May can do as a reliever. Similar discussion as with Pelfrey: His 91.9 mph FB average will get to the mid-90s as a reliever, plus he had the second best K% of the group in the majors and a respectable SwStr% (mostly as a starter, and will get better as a reliever.) And the cherry on top is that he led the 2014 Twins' pen with 2.0 Ground Balls per Fly Ball and a 57.1% GB%. May projects as an above average reliever. This makes 4. Need a lefty, and from that group, I'd go with Brian Duensing, and not because he is the most veteran. Brian Duensing (like Glen Perkins) regressed a bit in 2014, mainly losing about 1 mph velocity on his fastball and losing effectiveness in his slider. That translated to a K% drop from 20.9% to 14.4% and a SwStr% drop from 10.5% to 8.6%. That said, he had the highest GB% of all the lefties in the Twins' pen (45.7%) and has by far the highest velocity of the lefties left in the list. As far as offerings go, I think that Duensing has too many pitches. Losing either the slider or the curve (both have been inconsistent) and focusing on one, plus regaining his 2013 form (which was at or above the average pitcher's) will do wonders for the Twins. I hope that the new pitching coach will help in these regards. This makes 5 which leaves a lot of candidates for 2 spots. I think that the Twins will need someone who can fulfill the Anthony Swarzak role, but all of the above have been starting pitchers and there is flexibility, which means that if, for example, Tommy Milone loses out for the fifth starter job, he does not have to be the long man in the Twins' pen. Having a long man by committee, might actually be an interesting approach. The most intriguing names above for me for the last two spots are Aaron Thomson, Stephen Pryor, J.R. Graham, Ryan Pressly and Blaine Boyer. Pryor used to throw fastballs in the high 90s (career average 96.4) but velocity slipped due to injuries last season. Very similar situation with the Rule 5 pick, J.R. Graham and their former Rule 5 pick Ryan Pressly. Blaine Boyer is the veteran in the group, with a good track record and might make the team. As far as another lefty, Thomson is ahead of Thielbar (who in addition to being below average in every respect, has a 31.8% GB%). Should the Twins go out and target a "known quantity" like Jonathan Papelbon (2.86 SIERA, 24.3 K%, 12.1 SwStr%, 91.2 mph, 41.9 GB%) in a trade? I think that it would definitely help, but putting Pelfrey and May in the pen might work equally well. I think that the bones are there. Perkins and Duensing should rebound from regressive seasons, Stauffer was a good acquisition, if you break down the numbers, and they will find 2-3 more relievers. But they have to take the best 7 north, which means that they might have to make tough choices regarding below average extreme fly ball pitchers like Fien and Thielbar, even though there might be the belief that they should still be under scholarship.
  14. The Background Just before the holidays, the Twins signed 32-year-old, right-handed pitcher Tim Stauffer to a one-year contract worth $2.2 million. Though he has worked out of the San Diego Padres’ bullpen the past two seasons, he was told that he would be given an opportunity to start. Was that just something he was told by the Twins to get him to sign with them, or will he really be given a shot to leave Ft. Myers as the team’s fifth starter? Well, fortunately pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks, so we’ll find out what kind of opportunity he really gets. Stauffer was the first-round pick of the Padres in 2003. He was the fourth overall pick out of the University of Richmond. During his first professional season (2004), he started in High-A and pitched at three levels. By mid-May of 2005, he had made his major league debut with San Diego. He pitched mostly in AAA in 2006 and 2007. Unfortunately, he had shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2008 season and almost half of the 2009 season. He returned to the Padres and made 14 starts that year. In 2010, he posted a 1.85 ERA, mostly out of the Padres bullpen. That led to his best seasons, 2011, when he made 31 starts. He went 9-12 with a 3.73 ERA in 185.2 innings. He was set to be the 2012 Opening Day starter, but instead he had surgery on his flexor tendon and made just one appearance all year. And that brings us to the 2013 season and he’s been a pretty solid bullpen performer the last two years. He combined to go 9-3 with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. He’s also struck out 131 batters in 134 innings. What is he? Stauffer is a typical, standard, middle-of-the-road, back-of-a-rotation starting pitcher in terms of his stuff. He has a good mix of pitches. His average fastball sits between 90 and 91 mph, and he throws it a little over half the time. He has added a cutter in the mid-80s which helps him get a lot of ground balls. His change-up sits around 80 mph, so it’s a good velocity difference from the fastball. He also has a slow curveball in the low-70s that he doesn’t throw a ton. Parker went into great details on what Stauffer is and what he throws in December. Be sure to read that here. He needs to have very good control, and his career walks per nine average is at 3.0, which is really average. His career strikeout rate is 6.8 per nine, which again, is very average. In other words, if he were to be the Twins 5th starter, and last the whole year, he would probably be... OK. Stauffer Percentage The hope, if Stauffer were named fifth starter, would be that he could work 185 innings like he did in 2011. Well, that may not actually be the goal. Stauffer, or others mentioned in this fifth starter debate, would presumably be just a stop gap. The bigger goal may be to have Trevor May or Alex Meyer fully ready for the role before midseason. Stauffer would then fall back into the Anthony Swarzak role. He’d be capable of pitching in long relief or 7th inning situations. If I were to guess the odds that Tim Stauffer begins the season as the Twins fifth starter, I would probably put the odds at less than 1%. Previous 5th starter candidate stories: Mike Pelfrey Alex Meyer
  15. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click the Play button below. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Ep_176_Hughes_and_Stauffer.mp3
  16. Aaron and John meet at Stella’s and discuss: 1:00 – Free agents and MLB payrolls 7:00 – Phil Hughes Extension 21:00 – Tim Stauffer signing 36:00 – Ballpark effects 39:00 – Aaron’s Birthday 44:00 – Twins Daily Meltdown 46:00 – Farewell Chris Parmelee 52:00 – Twins catchers 55:00 – Going to Korea 59:00 – National Perception of the Twins 61:00 – Top 30 Tweeters 64:00 – Spring Training 68:15 – Aaron’s worst analogy ever 72:00 – Super Bowl WeekendYou can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click the Play button below. Click here to view the article
  17. **** When Stauffer was drafted out of the University of Richmond in 2003, Baseball America quoted one scout as saying Stauffer is “Brad Radke with a better fastball and breaking ball.” In his senior year Stauffer had thrown 146 innings while walking just 19 batters -- a Radke-ian feat by any measure. Still, insiders were concerned over the workload Stauffer shouldered in his final two years in college: He had amassed 250 innings with 28 complete games to boot. The Padres did not show much concern over the mileage nor the fact that he came from the University of Richmond -- a school that touts Sean Casey and Brian Jordan as themajor league contributors they had produced. The Padres saw a pitcher who not only dominated hitters in a less competitive conference but had also witnessed him doing the same to the nation’s best collegiate hitters in the Cape Cod League as well. Convinced, San Diego used their fourth overall pick in 2003 on Stauffer. According to Baseball America, the Padres noted that Stauffer’s superior character was one of the reasons he was selected at that point. That character was tested right away after being selected. In his last collegiate start against UC Riverside, Stauffer said he finished the game with some discomfort in his throwing shoulder. A “little more stiffness or soreness than usual” as he put it. An MRI revealed his shoulder joint was weakened from taxing the labrum and rotator cuff. Stauffer could have accepted the $2.6 million bonus from the team and not said anything but instead, he and his agent came clean. Rather than being a multi-millionaire, Stauffer agreed to $750,000. **** Baseball analysts like to try to find root causes of arms issues (such as shoulder blowouts or UCL tears) and assign various explanations (such as pitch counts, innings totals or mechanics). While all, some or none may be responsible, there may simply be genetics as an influential factor. Prior to being draft, Stauffer’s father Rick spoke to The Daily Gazette in New York about his son’s success and noted that he too played in college for a while and had professional teams inquiring about him as well. The elder Stauffer, however, ran headlong into shoulder problems in college that derailed his career. “I threw a little like Timmy does…I could throw in the low-90-mph range,” Rick Stauffer told the newspaper. “But, I decided to go to college at St. Joseph’s and hurt my shoulder during my freshman year. Rotator cuff injuries weren’t diagnosed back then. They sent me to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, where they worked with me for more than a year.” Like for his father, the weak shoulder would eventually falter for Tim. Attempting to win a spot in the Padres’ 2008 rotation during spring training, Stauffer said something did not feel right. He had pitched through pain and soreness before but this felt different. Tests revealed a partial labrum tear -- his weakened shoulder joint. “It happened over time," Stauffer told the Saratogan as he attempted to rehab his arm at his high school gymnasium in 2009. "It's not something that happened with one pitch or one game. Rehab wasn't doing it, so I decided to have it fixed and go from there." The shoulder surgery and recovery erased the 2008 season for him. 2009 was limited. In 2010, the injury bug bit again in the form of appendicitis that Stauffer diagnosed himself using an WebMD app on his phone in the middle of the night. That cost him 47 games. Most recently, in 2012 while recovering from more shoulder soreness Stauffer’s elbow began barking as well. More surgery. More rehab. More people calling him a bust. **** Stauffer had missed two of the past five seasons for the Padres. He was now on the other side of 30 and had a future shrouded in doubt. In October 2012 San Diego designated him for assignment. He cleared waivers when no other team was willing to claim him and elected free agency. Stauffer would remain a free agent until late January 2013 when the Padres -- perhaps out of respect for his character-- signed him to a minor league deal and offered him a major league tryout. Rather than return as a starter, Stauffer was converted to a reliever. After a run in Triple-A, Stauffer was recalled in May 2013 and completed his first season in the Padres’ bullpen. The results were solid. As a long reliever Stauffer worked in 43 outings but threw 69.2 innings while striking out 64 and walking just 20, leading to a healthy 3.55 ERA. Still arbitration-eligible because of his lack of major league service time, the Padres brought him back again in 2014. Again he worked lower leverage situations in the sixth and seventh innings and provided multi-inning support in blowouts. Like the Twins’ Anthony Swarzak, Stauffer was asked to make a few spot starts in the season as well (to mixed results). In all, Stauffer pitched 64.2 innings over 44 games, including three starts. Like in the season before, his numbers were respectable. He struck out 67, walked 23 and carried a 3.50 ERA. Not great, but respectable. Other than finally having a healthy arm, the biggest difference in his performance between the rotation and the bullpen was his use of the changeup. Stauffer said he was working on his changeup in 2011 but it did not seem to take hold until he reached the bullpen full time. Maybe it was feel or confidence but Stauffer threw his changeup more often and much more frequently in two-strike counts as his knuckle-curve gave way to a circle change. Over the past two seasons, among relievers who have thrown the pitch at least 150 times, Stauffer’s 22.4% swinging strike rate ranks ahead of Seattle’s Fernando Rodney (22.0%) and the Twins’ Jared Burton (20.3%), two of the more devastating changeups in the game, and 14th overall. http://i.imgur.com/2clvtXq.gif It is because of this pitch that he is such a Jared Burton-like clone. They both had relied on changeups -- Burton called his a splangeup as it was a split between his middle and ring finger instead of a circle change like Stauffer’s (as seen above). What makes it effective is the arm action and movement coupled with the deviation in velocity from his fastball. Although his fastball barely reaches 90, his change sits at 80. Having an above average secondary or out-pitch is good for a reliever when asking him to retire just three hitters a night. However, Stauffer’s primary pitch -- his fastball -- lacks zip and is often bombarded. His slider is above average but the fastball can be a liability at times. **** What the 2015 season holds for Stauffer is uncertain. Born and bred as a starting pitcher through his career, the Twins have said they will give Stauffer an opportunity to make the rotation. “He’s had some success as a starter, so we’ve told him we will give him that opportunity and see where it lands,” General Manager Terry Ryan told the Star Tribune after Stauffer’s signing was announced. Unless injuries appear or several of the younger arms appear ineffective in the spring, Stauffer’s immediate future with the Twins is likely as a reliever. Without Burton or Swarzak, the Twins need someone who can handle both short and long outings. Moreover, Stauffer’s experience as a starter provides the Twins with some additional insurance throughout the season rather than having to summon pitchers like Yohan Pino or Kris Johnson to fill starts. Of course, when talking about potential injury Stauffer is as likely as any to have arm issues. Likewise, his ability to retire American League hitters remains in question. That said, Stauffer appears to be someone with the drive and history to provide the Twins with multiple options.
  18. Shortly before Christmas break, the Minnesota Twins signed free agent pitcher Tim Stauffer to one-year, $2.2 million. If you happened to check Fangraphs.com on the 32-year-old righthander, gazing upon his average velocity may have been as exciting as unwrapping another pair of socks. Low 90s? Again? While the trend for pitching staffs has been to stockpile power arms, Stauffer’s flexibility as a starter and a reliever provides the team with various options. Beyond the low velocity, over his career Stauffer has combated an endless war against injuries that would have made Orwell proud. What exactly do the Twins see in him? **** When Stauffer was drafted out of the University of Richmond in 2003, Baseball America quoted one scout as saying Stauffer is “Brad Radke with a better fastball and breaking ball.” In his senior year Stauffer had thrown 146 innings while walking just 19 batters -- a Radke-ian feat by any measure. Still, insiders were concerned over the workload Stauffer shouldered in his final two years in college: He had amassed 250 innings with 28 complete games to boot. The Padres did not show much concern over the mileage nor the fact that he came from the University of Richmond -- a school that touts Sean Casey and Brian Jordan as themajor league contributors they had produced. The Padres saw a pitcher who not only dominated hitters in a less competitive conference but had also witnessed him doing the same to the nation’s best collegiate hitters in the Cape Cod League as well. Convinced, San Diego used their fourth overall pick in 2003 on Stauffer. According to Baseball America, the Padres noted that Stauffer’s superior character was one of the reasons he was selected at that point. That character was tested right away after being selected. In his last collegiate start against UC Riverside, Stauffer said he finished the game with some discomfort in his throwing shoulder. A “little more stiffness or soreness than usual” as he put it. An MRI revealed his shoulder joint was weakened from taxing the labrum and rotator cuff. Stauffer could have accepted the $2.6 million bonus from the team and not said anything but instead, he and his agent came clean. Rather than being a multi-millionaire, Stauffer agreed to $750,000. **** Baseball analysts like to try to find root causes of arms issues (such as shoulder blowouts or UCL tears) and assign various explanations (such as pitch counts, innings totals or mechanics). While all, some or none may be responsible, there may simply be genetics as an influential factor. Prior to being draft, Stauffer’s father Rick spoke to The Daily Gazette in New York about his son’s success and noted that he too played in college for a while and had professional teams inquiring about him as well. The elder Stauffer, however, ran headlong into shoulder problems in college that derailed his career. “I threw a little like Timmy does…I could throw in the low-90-mph range,” Rick Stauffer told the newspaper. “But, I decided to go to college at St. Joseph’s and hurt my shoulder during my freshman year. Rotator cuff injuries weren’t diagnosed back then. They sent me to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, where they worked with me for more than a year.” Like for his father, the weak shoulder would eventually falter for Tim. Attempting to win a spot in the Padres’ 2008 rotation during spring training, Stauffer said something did not feel right. He had pitched through pain and soreness before but this felt different. Tests revealed a partial labrum tear -- his weakened shoulder joint. “It happened over time," Stauffer told the Saratogan as he attempted to rehab his arm at his high school gymnasium in 2009. "It's not something that happened with one pitch or one game. Rehab wasn't doing it, so I decided to have it fixed and go from there." The shoulder surgery and recovery erased the 2008 season for him. 2009 was limited. In 2010, the injury bug bit again in the form of appendicitis that Stauffer diagnosed himself using an WebMD app on his phone in the middle of the night. That cost him 47 games. Most recently, in 2012 while recovering from more shoulder soreness Stauffer’s elbow began barking as well. More surgery. More rehab. More people calling him a bust. **** Stauffer had missed two of the past five seasons for the Padres. He was now on the other side of 30 and had a future shrouded in doubt. In October 2012 San Diego designated him for assignment. He cleared waivers when no other team was willing to claim him and elected free agency. Stauffer would remain a free agent until late January 2013 when the Padres -- perhaps out of respect for his character-- signed him to a minor league deal and offered him a major league tryout. Rather than return as a starter, Stauffer was converted to a reliever. After a run in Triple-A, Stauffer was recalled in May 2013 and completed his first season in the Padres’ bullpen. The results were solid. As a long reliever Stauffer worked in 43 outings but threw 69.2 innings while striking out 64 and walking just 20, leading to a healthy 3.55 ERA. Still arbitration-eligible because of his lack of major league service time, the Padres brought him back again in 2014. Again he worked lower leverage situations in the sixth and seventh innings and provided multi-inning support in blowouts. Like the Twins’ Anthony Swarzak, Stauffer was asked to make a few spot starts in the season as well (to mixed results). In all, Stauffer pitched 64.2 innings over 44 games, including three starts. Like in the season before, his numbers were respectable. He struck out 67, walked 23 and carried a 3.50 ERA. Not great, but respectable. Other than finally having a healthy arm, the biggest difference in his performance between the rotation and the bullpen was his use of the changeup. Download attachment: Stauffer_ChangeupUsage.png Stauffer said he was working on his changeup in 2011 but it did not seem to take hold until he reached the bullpen full time. Maybe it was feel or confidence but Stauffer threw his changeup more often and much more frequently in two-strike counts as his knuckle-curve gave way to a circle change. Download attachment: USATSI_7981390.jpg Over the past two seasons, among relievers who have thrown the pitch at least 150 times, Stauffer’s 22.4% swinging strike rate ranks ahead of Seattle’s Fernando Rodney (22.0%) and the Twins’ Jared Burton (20.3%), two of the more devastating changeups in the game, and 14th overall. http://i.imgur.com/2clvtXq.gif It is because of this pitch that he is such a Jared Burton-like clone. They both had relied on changeups -- Burton called his a splangeup as it was a split between his middle and ring finger instead of a circle change like Stauffer’s (as seen above). What makes it effective is the arm action and movement coupled with the deviation in velocity from his fastball. Although his fastball barely reaches 90, his change sits at 80. Having an above average secondary or out-pitch is good for a reliever when asking him to retire just three hitters a night. However, Stauffer’s primary pitch -- his fastball -- lacks zip and is often bombarded. His slider is above average but the fastball can be a liability at times. **** What the 2015 season holds for Stauffer is uncertain. Born and bred as a starting pitcher through his career, the Twins have said they will give Stauffer an opportunity to make the rotation. “He’s had some success as a starter, so we’ve told him we will give him that opportunity and see where it lands,” General Manager Terry Ryan told the Star Tribune after Stauffer’s signing was announced. Unless injuries appear or several of the younger arms appear ineffective in the spring, Stauffer’s immediate future with the Twins is likely as a reliever. Without Burton or Swarzak, the Twins need someone who can handle both short and long outings. Moreover, Stauffer’s experience as a starter provides the Twins with some additional insurance throughout the season rather than having to summon pitchers like Yohan Pino or Kris Johnson to fill starts. Of course, when talking about potential injury Stauffer is as likely as any to have arm issues. Likewise, his ability to retire American League hitters remains in question. That said, Stauffer appears to be someone with the drive and history to provide the Twins with multiple options. Click here to view the article
  19. On this week's No Juice Podcast, Dan Anderson and Parker Hageman wrap up their first year by discussing the Phil Hughes extension and the Tim Stauffer addition. Click to listen below.Other topics include #SugarDaddysParkingLotUpdate, holiday festivities, and the best and worst in local sports in 2014. Have a Happy New Year everyone! Listen below, on iTunes or on Stitcher: NO JUICE PODCAST, EPISODE #36: 2014 YEAR IN REVIEW Click here to view the article
  20. Other topics include #SugarDaddysParkingLotUpdate, holiday festivities, and the best and worst in local sports in 2014. Have a Happy New Year everyone! Listen below, on iTunes or on Stitcher: NO JUICE PODCAST, EPISODE #36: 2014 YEAR IN REVIEW
  21. Stauffer's one-year, $2.2 million deal isn't significantly different from what the Twins would have given Anthony Swarzak, who was the only arbitration-eligible player they chose to non-tender. Considering the similarities between the two pitchers, this looks like a straight-up swap. Like Swarzak, Stauffer has spent time as a starter and as a reliever. And like Swarzak, he's been much better in the bullpen, where he has a 2.65 career ERA. But unlike Swarzak, Stauffer has actually had some success as a starter. In that role, the veteran has a 4.29 career ERA -- compared to 5.87 for Swarzak -- and in his most recent season as a full-time member of the rotation (2011), Stauffer put up a solid 3.73 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 31 starts. Now, all of those numbers were accrued in the National League, with Petco Park as his home field, so the skill difference between Stauffer and Swarzak might not actually be as large as the statistical gap suggests. But the newcomer profiles as a better reliever, capable of missing more bats and filling a more impactful role in the bullpen, so he's a welcome addition. He also looks like a guy who can step in and make a good spot start in situations where the Twins need someone and don't want to make a roster move. That is a weapon that any team likes to have available somewhere in its bullpen, and it's an area where Swarzak never really proved adequate. With all the talk of improving the quality of their starting pitching depth, this may have been the key consideration for the Twins in replacing Swarzak with Stauffer. It's not a huge upgrade, but it does make the team slightly better, and getting slightly better in many different areas is a good way to move the needle in a larger sense.
  22. The Twins' signing of veteran right-hander Tim Stauffer slipped under the radar to a large degree as a fairly minor acquisition that fell amidst a holiday week. But in adding the 32-year-old, the team is ponying up a couple million in guaranteed money to address a unit that already seemed somewhat crowded. How does Stauffer fit?Stauffer's one-year, $2.2 million deal isn't significantly different from what the Twins would have given Anthony Swarzak, who was the only arbitration-eligible player they chose to non-tender. Considering the similarities between the two pitchers, this looks like a straight-up swap. Like Swarzak, Stauffer has spent time as a starter and as a reliever. And like Swarzak, he's been much better in the bullpen, where he has a 2.65 career ERA. But unlike Swarzak, Stauffer has actually had some success as a starter. In that role, the veteran has a 4.29 career ERA -- compared to 5.87 for Swarzak -- and in his most recent season as a full-time member of the rotation (2011), Stauffer put up a solid 3.73 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 31 starts. Now, all of those numbers were accrued in the National League, with Petco Park as his home field, so the skill difference between Stauffer and Swarzak might not actually be as large as the statistical gap suggests. But the newcomer profiles as a better reliever, capable of missing more bats and filling a more impactful role in the bullpen, so he's a welcome addition. He also looks like a guy who can step in and make a good spot start in situations where the Twins need someone and don't want to make a roster move. That is a weapon that any team likes to have available somewhere in its bullpen, and it's an area where Swarzak never really proved adequate. With all the talk of improving the quality of their starting pitching depth, this may have been the key consideration for the Twins in replacing Swarzak with Stauffer. It's not a huge upgrade, but it does make the team slightly better, and getting slightly better in many different areas is a good way to move the needle in a larger sense. Click here to view the article
  23. In 2012, Stauffer had his elbow’s flexor tendon repaired and had undergone labrum surgery a few years earlier. He debuted way back in 2005 and was the third overall pick in 2003. This is his first team other than the Padres, who brought him back a few times. Last year Stauffer wasn’t a key cog in the Padres bullpen, rarely seeing high leverage innings unless they were in extra innings. But his stats as a reliever give hope that he has the potential for more. Last year he had 57 strikeouts and 19 walks in 56.1 innings, though he also posted a pretty mediocre 1.314WHIP. He also seemed to be helped by spacious Petco Park, giving up far fewer hits at home than on the road, but Target Field has a reputation as a pitcher-friendly park, too. He’s possibly better than he’s been used, and although he’s 31 years old, it’s a very affordable one-year deal and provides additional competition in a possibly already crowded bullpen. About the only people who should be opposed to this move are the other relievers in the Twins bullpen, unless the hope was that the Twins would sign a high-end reliever.
  24. Those Twins fans hoping that the last spot in the Twins bullpen this year might go to a failed ex-starter may have gotten their wish today. It’s just that that failed ex-starter was with the Padres. The Minnesota Twins announced that they signed right-hander Tim Stauffer to a one-year, $2.2 milion contract today to compete for a bullpen spot. Stauffer is an ex-starter who was moved to the bullpen after suffering a couple of significant injuries while he served as a fringe starting pitcher in the Padres organization.In 2012, Stauffer had his elbow’s flexor tendon repaired and had undergone labrum surgery a few years earlier. He debuted way back in 2005 and was the third overall pick in 2003. This is his first team other than the Padres, who brought him back a few times. Last year Stauffer wasn’t a key cog in the Padres bullpen, rarely seeing high leverage innings unless they were in extra innings. But his stats as a reliever give hope that he has the potential for more. Last year he had 57 strikeouts and 19 walks in 56.1 innings, though he also posted a pretty mediocre 1.314WHIP. He also seemed to be helped by spacious Petco Park, giving up far fewer hits at home than on the road, but Target Field has a reputation as a pitcher-friendly park, too. He’s possibly better than he’s been used, and although he’s 31 years old, it’s a very affordable one-year deal and provides additional competition in a possibly already crowded bullpen. About the only people who should be opposed to this move are the other relievers in the Twins bullpen, unless the hope was that the Twins would sign a high-end reliever. Click here to view the article
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